Page images

of these positions is, that the arm is held nearer to the side, and the elbow is more bended. *

Errors in the Positions of the Arms. 1. All constrained movements of the arm, proceeding only from the elbow; with the opposite fault of throwing the arm out straight and rigid.These are both opposed to

* Note to the Teacher. - The improvement of the learner here, as elsewhere in many other parts of this Manual, depends entirely on practice, and on such a familiarity as will make these movements seem to him more natural than any others, when he comes to the exercise of speaking. This may be successfully accomplished by a course of training something like the following :

Let a class, or section of a class, take their position in the floor,all occupying the second position of the right foot, with the hands at rest. Then,

1. Let them present the natural state of the right hand in several of these positions of the arm; while the left hand remains at rest.

2. Let the same be done with the left hand,-carefully observing the position of the fingers, both in the hand which is employed in gesture and in that which is at rest.-Let these exercises be continued, till the perfect command of the fingers is acquired in the various positions of the arm.

3. Direct special attention to the positions of the arms, both right and left, while the learner passes through the positions regularly, as laid down in the system.-In Fig. 25, the Roman letters mark the points to which the right hand may be directed; those which the left hand alone can reach are marked with Italics; while all the points o, f, and c, are reached in common by both hands.

4. When these positions taken regularly can all be executed with sufficient ease and grace, then the learner may be required to pass from one to another indiscriminately,--with reference to making the transitions gracefully and in curved lines, instead of passing from the one to the other in a straight line, by the shortest course.

5. The learner may be required to distinguish, in his preliminary practice, between the colloquial gestures, or those of moderate extent, and the bolder gestures which bear the same name, suited to the drama and the more elevated efforts of the orator.

Other exercises will suggest themselves to the teacher. When, as in this case, habits of action are to be formed, he need not fear varying or repeating the exercise too much.

freedom; and while the former is feeble in its expression, the latter is mechanical and awkward.

2. All movements of the arm which cause the hand to describe straight lines or angles, instead of curves. Some such movements may be sufficiently significant, and as such may be employed; but they have little of grace or beauty to recommend them.

3. The employment of any other lines of gesture than those already pointed out ; or the too frequent use of any one or two of these, either vertical or transverse, to the neglect of the others.—The former is inexpressive; the latter will not only often be inexpressive, but must also be monotonous and tiresome.

4. The inward sweep of the arm, instead of the outward, downward, or upward.—When the arm moves in the transverse curves, the movement of the hand should be clearly outward from the body; and when it moves in the vertical lines, its movement should be downward or upward, but not inward. The inward sweep of the arm is called for only when the hand is to be placed upon some part of the body; unless perhaps it may incline slightly inward in the cross gesture.

5. The disregard of the points at which the gesture should terminate.Indefinite sweeps of the arm are but unmeaning flourishes, which more frequently disgust than please.

6. The too frequent use of the cross gestures.—The only use of this gesture is to call attention to objects on the other side of the speaker from that of the arm employed, or in the expression of antithetic ideas; and in neither case should the arm often rise above the downward cross gesture.

As in the First Part of this Manual, so here, will the attentive learner be struck with the extent of nature's pro

vision for the production of variety in the means of allling to the effect of mere verbal expression. Alrearly mus: it be perfectly obvious, that there never can be occasion for the dull repetition of the same gesture, or of any uniforin succession of gestures. The principles however on which this variety is secured, will be much more fully developed in the next chapter.


CHAPTER II. PRACTICAL APPLICATION OF PRINCIPLES. The symbols by the aid of which sentiment and feeling are enforced, whether they belong to the tones or to the gestures, can be judiciously applied only by study and Even if it should appear that nature has in any

instance made an orator without these, no one ought in his own case to make this an occasion of relying solely on the uninstructed and unaided impulses of nature. All are not equally gifted. Few who have attained any considerable degree of excellence, but have had to cultivate their natural powers by diligent application and persevering effort ; nor will he who has any just estimate of the value of the prize to be secured, complain of the price by which alone it can be bought.

The chief object of these instructions is to train the orator, and not the actor. Hence we place at the foundation of all effective action-real feeling. To this we attach so much importance, as to allow that it will compensate many of the smaller blemishes of delivery, and many departures from the rules of strict propriety in action. But the learner should understand, that there is no incongruity between feeling and the highest grace in action. To secure the latter however, when the feelings are enlisted in the thought and the occasion, habits of graceful gesture must have been previously formed; and these must be formed by private practice. In this way also, personal defects may often be concealed, by a judicious selection from among the various positions and gestures allowed.

For the purpose of aiding the learner in his preliminary practice, I shall show in the several sections of this chapter how the elements of gesture already described can be best applied to practice, so as to conform to the decisions of good taste, and to the usage of our best speakers.



The importance of the introductory movements of the public speaker will appear from two brief considerations. First,-it is from these the audience receive their first impressions of the speaker. If he is a stranger, they have nothing else from which to judge of the man. Secondly, their minds are then perfectly free to criticise his manner, since they are not supposed to be occupied by any thing else. These movements then demand special attention, He should omit no proper mode of expressing respect for those before hin, and of bespeaking their favor. Affectation or display are peculiarly inappropriate at this time, when the air of modesty alone can please.

In general terms, so far as movement and gesture are concerned, the orator should present himself to the audience modestly, and without any show of self-confidence; at the same time that he avoids obsequiousness, and every thing opposed to true dignity and self-respect. His countenance should be composed, and he should look at those before him without any approach to a stare; nor hasten to commence his speech, which should seem to be dictated by a consciousness of its importance.

First, then, with suitable deliberation, and with a step of but moderate length, he should take his position; and if, from his first appearance, his face is not directed to the audience, he should bring himself into his position by a

« PreviousContinue »